Simon Napier-Bell- Eartha Kitt, Wham & the 2 Faces Of Fame
Simon Napier-Bell: “While I was managing Wham!, I got friendly with Eartha Kitt. People often referred to Eartha as catlike and you could see what they meant – she walked like a perfectly groomed panther.
Whenever she arrived at my house she’d head straight to my largest armchair and curl herself into the centre of it like a kitten. And when she talked, that was feline too, her words came out like a purr.
Something she spoke about of particular interest was the problem she’d had with her identity when she first became a star.
“My real name was Eartha May, and when I began to have success and people talked about Eartha Kitt I didn’t recognise the person they were talking about. When they said she was a great performer I couldn’t believe it was me. I felt guilty benefitting from the other Eartha’s success, even of buying things with the money she earned. That person on stage wasn’t me, it was just a role I was playing.”
It was a problem that managing Wham! had made me all too aware of, watching George play-act a character that wasn’t really him and in full view of the media having to balance his real and false personas.
In fact, ever since I started in management I’d noticed certain young artists being sent crazy, literally in some cases, from trying to cope with false imagery dumped on them by managers (or sometimes themselves) with no thought of the consequences.
“For me it took years,” Eartha told me. “More than a decade – little by little taking my stage character and mixing it together with the real me until I was able to combine the two into one person, and feel sane.”
It’s a lesson any aspiring pop singer should take on board. The pop business isn’t like the movie business – fans fall for artists who are meant to be the real thing, not false faces. For pop stars, the stage begins each day on the public side of their front door. That’s where the paparazzi will be waiting. And you’d better not be hiding too much of your real self.”
Simon Napier- Bell’s next book is TA-RA-RA-BOOM-DE-AY a complete history of the music business.